More than 900,000 motorists are risking a £1,000 fine for driving with a licence which expired in the last year, according to a new investigation.
The inquiry by the PA news agency found that at the start of September 2022, 926,000 people in Britain had a photocard licence which had expired in the previous 12 months. That equates to around 2% of all drivers in the country, although a small proportion of those drivers are likely to have simply given up driving without informing the DVLA.
Unless there are specific medical reasons, driving entitlement usually lasts until a driver reaches the age of 70, after which they must apply to renew their licence every three years. However, photocard licences for drivers of all ages have to be renewed every 10 years to ensure the image on the licence is still a reasonable likeness.
Failing to return an expired licence to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and can be punished with a fine of up to £1,000, although renewing your licence late does not incur a separate fine. However, if you continue to drive after surrendering your licence and failing to renew it you could be prosecuted for driving without a licence.
The DVLA says it writes to motorists 56 days before their licence expires to alert them and remind them to renew. The PA investigation found that in the last 12 months 2.5 million drivers renewed their photocard after it had expired or within 56 days of the expiry date.
Philip Gomm of the RAC Foundation said: “There are good reasons to keep licences up to date, beyond the basic legal requirement. They are also a widely accepted form of ID and will certainly be required if you are ever stopped by police.
“Renewal also provides an opportunity for people to assess whether they are still fit to drive, and we think there is an argument for linking a compulsory eye test to the process to make sure we all remain safe on the road, though Government should help keep costs as low as possible for motorists.”
The DVLA encourages drivers to use its online service to renew their licence, although it can also be done by post or at a Post Office. It has previously warned drivers against using third-party websites which charge drivers an additional fee to process the renewal for them.
A DVLA spokeswoman said: “We encourage customers to use GOV.UK as applying online is the quickest and cheapest way to renew their photocard driving licence. If you stop driving altogether, you should inform DVLA and return your licence rather keeping it as a form of out of date photo ID.”